Thou art but a shadow, a dream of the happiness I so long possessed; where has treacherous fate conducted thee? Did she deny thee to meet the rapid stroke of never-shunned death, in the open face of day, only to prepare for thee a foretaste of the grave, in the midst of this loathsome corruption? How revolting its rank odour exhales from these damp stones! Life stagnates, and my foot shrinks from the couch as from the grave. Oh care, care! Thou who dost begin prematurely the work of murder,— forbear;—Since when has Egmont been alone, so utterly alone in the world? ’Tis doubt renders thee insensible, not happiness. The justice of the king, in which through life thou hast confided, the friendship of the Regent, which, thou mayst confess it, was akin to love,—have these suddenly vanished, like a meteor of the night, and left thee alone upon thy gloomy path? Will not Orange, at the head of thy friends, contrive some daring scheme? Will not the people assemble, and with gathering might, attempt the rescue of their faithful friend?
Ye walls, which thus gird me round, separate me not from the well-intentioned zeal of so many kindly souls. And may the courage with which my glance was wont to inspire them, now return again from their hearts to mine. Yes! they assemble in thousands! they come! they stand beside me! their pious wish rises urgently to heaven, and implores a miracle; and if no angel stoops for my deliverance, I see them grasp eagerly their lance and sword. The gates are forced, the bolts are riven, the walls fall beneath their conquering hands, and Egmont advances joyously, to hail the freedom of the rising morn. How many well-known faces receive me with loud acclaim! O Clara! wert thou a man, I should see thee here the very first, and thank thee for that which it is galling to owe even to a king—liberty.
Scene III.—Clara’s House
Clara (enters from her chamber with a lamp and a glass of water; she places the glass upon the table and steps to the window).
Brackenburg, is it you? What noise was that? No one yet? No one! I will set the lamp in the window, that he may see that I am still awake, that I still watch for him. He promised me tidings. Tidings? horrible certainty!— Egmont condemned!—what tribunal has the right to summon him?—And they dare to condemn him!—Does the king condemn him, or the duke? And the Regent withdraws herself! Orange hesitates, and all his friends! — Is this the world, of whose fickleness and treachery I have heard so much, and as yet experienced nothing? Is this the world?—Who could be so base as to hear malice against one so dear? Could villainy itself be audacious enough to overwhelm with sudden destruction the object of a nation’s homage? Yet so it is—it is-O Egmont, I held thee safe before God and man, safe as in my arms! What was I to thee. Thou hast called me thine, my whole being was devoted to thee. What am I now? In vain I stretch out my hand